Jan 1, 2024; Orlando, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Nico Iamaleava (8) throws the ball against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the second quarter at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 Tennessee shuts out No. 17 Iowa in Citrus Bowl

Quarterback Nico Iamaleava rushed for three touchdowns and passed for one in his first career start to help No. 21 Tennessee cruise to a 35-0 rout of No. 17 Iowa on Monday afternoon in the Citrus Bowl at Orlando.

Iamaleava drew the start because Joe Milton III opted out of the contest and he completed 12 of 19 passes for 151 yards for the Volunteers (9-4). He scored on runs of 19, 3 and 2 yards, tossed an 18-yard TD pass to McCallan Castles and helped Tennessee play turnover-free football.

James Pearce Jr. returned an interception for a touchdown and also recorded a strip-sack that set up a Volunteers’ touchdown. Dylan Sampson rushed for 133 yards on 20 carries as the lead back after star Jaylen Wright and No. 2 rusher Jabari Small both opted out of the contest.

Deacon Hill completed 7 of 18 passes for 56 yards and committed three turnovers (two interceptions, one lost fumble) for Iowa (10-4). The Hawkeyes were shut out for the third time this season.

The Iowa offense had 111 yards before Hill was pulled after the early fourth-quarter interception by Pearce. The Hawkeyes finished with 173 while the Volunteers had 383 yards en route to scoring more points than Iowa had allowed in a game all season.

Iowa star Jay Higgins had 16 tackles to tie the school single-season record of 171 set by Andre Jackson in 1972. Teammate Joe Evans registered a career-high four sacks. The Hawkeyes had six overall.

Tyre West had 1.5 of Tennessee’s five sacks.

Hill’s first big miscue came in the first quarter. On third-and-goal from the Tennessee 4, Hill was intercepted in the end zone by Andre Turrentine with 4:55 left.

Tennessee got on the board on the first play of the second quarter when Iamaleava scored from the 19-yard line.

Later in the quarter, Iamaleava scored on a 3-yard run to make it 14-0 with 8:12 left in the half.

Pierce delivered his first big play late in the third quarter when he sacked Hill and forced a fumble that Dominic Bailey recovered at the Iowa 2.

Two plays later, Iamaleava scored from the 2 to make it 21-0 with 1:43 left in the third quarter.

Hill’s rough day ended with the pick-six by Pearce, who had dropped into coverage. Hill threw the ball directly to Pearce, who returned it 52 yards for a touchdown with 14:15 remaining in the contest.

Marco Lainez replaced Hill and Iowa controlled the ball for 13 plays and 6:11 before turning the ball over on downs.

The Volunteers added on with Iamaleava throwing the scoring pass to Castles to make it a 35-point margin with 4:48 left.

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2023; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Nico Iamaleava (8) passes the ball against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa sets sights on Nico Iamaleava, Tennessee in Citrus Bowl

A quarterback making his first career start would not likely list Iowa among ideal opening opponents.

But that’s the reality for Tennessee’s Nico Iamaleava as he leads the No. 21 Volunteers against the No. 17 Hawkeyes in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day at Orlando.

Sixth-year senior Joe Milton III opted out of the Citrus Bowl on Wednesday, which elevated the highly touted Iamaleava into the starting role.

Iamaleava attempted 26 passes as a freshman this season and attempts to solve an Iowa defense that entered the bowl season ranked fourth in scoring defense (13.2 points per game) and fifth in total defense (274.8 yards per game).

“I finally get to go out there and showcase my talents as a starter. It should be fun,” Iamaleava said.

“It’s my first start and it’s going against a top-5 defense, I’m ready for the challenge. And I’m ready to go out there and compete with my brothers.”

Tennessee (8-4) is averaging 31.5 points per game but certainly will be hard-pressed to approach that output with Milton and running backs Jaylen Wright (1,013 rushing yards) and Jabari Small (475) all skipping the game. Dylan Sampson (471 rushing, team-high eight total touchdowns) will be the main back.

Meanwhile, Iowa (10-3) allowed 16 or fewer points in 11 of its 13 games and allowed one touchdown or less 10 times. The stellar performance earned defensive coordinator Phil Parker the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant coach.

Parker is in his 12th season as defensive coordinator and his 25th campaign on the Hawkeyes’ staff.

“He is one of a kind, and I am so happy that he has been by my side in this program throughout the past 25 years,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Star linebacker Jay Higgins has 155 tackles, second nationally, and needs 17 to pass Andre Jackson (171 in 1972) as Iowa’s single-season leader.

Tennessee coach Josh Heupel has broken down the Hawkeyes’ defense and is impressed.

“It’s not just the numbers that say they’ve got a really good defense, you can watch the film. They’re dialed in,” Heupel said. “They make you earn it. They don’t give up a bunch of big plays, that’s in the pass game and in the run game.

“They’re really good on third downs, getting off the football field. They adjust during the course of the ball game extremely well to the things that they’re seeing.”

Higgins also supplied great news to the Hawkeyes by announcing he will return in 2024. Iowa safety Sebastian Castro (team-best three interceptions) said he will announce his decision “a day or two after the game.”

Castro also said that facing Iamaleava instead of Milton doesn’t affect the Hawkeyes’ preparations.

“The game plan not’s changing,” Castro said. “They spread out, and they like to throw the ball.”

The Volunteers’ four losses came by an average of 21 points despite the fact they allow just 22 points per game.

The defense gave up 98 points over the last three games but could get well quickly against an Iowa offense that was shut out twice and scored 20 or fewer points nine times. The Hawkeyes average just 16.6 points and 239.3 yards per game.

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, son of the head coach, will be running the offense for the final time after the school announced this would be his final season in late October.

Quarterback Deacon Hill has passed for 1,096 yards, five touchdowns and six interceptions since replacing Cade McNamara, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in Iowa’s fifth game.

The Hawkeyes don’t have a single player with 30 receptions or 300 receiving yards.

Iowa is 18-16-1 in bowl games and has won four of its last five. The Volunteers are 29-25.

This is the fourth all-time meeting. Tennessee holds a 2-1 edge and won the last meeting, 45-28 in the TaxSlayer Bowl (Gator Bowl) following the 2014 season.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2023; Orlando, FL, USA; LSU Tigers running back Noah Cain (21) rushes for a touchdown during the first half against the Purdue Boilermakers at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 LSU pounds Purdue 63-7 in Citrus Bowl blowout

Noah Cain ran for two touchdowns, Garrett Nussmeier came off the bench to throw two touchdown passes and No. 17 LSU routed Purdue 63-7 in the Citrus Bowl on Monday in Orlando, Fla.

Jayden Daniels passed for 139 yards and a touchdown in addition to catching a touchdown pass from wideout Malik Nabers, who had nine catches for 163 yards and a touchdown. John Emery Jr. and Derrick Davis Jr. each had a touchdown run and Mason Taylor and Brian Thomas Jr. each added a touchdown catch for the Tigers (10-4).

Both teams played without several key players who opted out and Purdue (8-6) was especially hampered by the absence of quarterback Aidan O’Connell, receiver Charlie Jones and tight end Payne Durham.

Austin Burton replaced O’Connell and completed 12 of 24 passes for 74 yards with an interception before being replaced by Michael Alaimo, whose 16-yard touchdown pass to TJ Sheffield in the fourth quarter produced the Boilermakers’ points.

LSU scored touchdowns on five consecutive first-half possessions and increased its lead to 42-0 on its first possession of the third quarter when Nabers threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Daniels.

Nabers grabbed a shovel pass from Nussmeier and sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown and a 49-0 lead at the end of the period.

Alaimo’s touchdown pass came on the second play of the fourth quarter and was followed by Davis’ 12-yard run and Quad Wilson’s 99-yard interception return that completed the scoring with 40 seconds remaining.

That enabled the Tigers to tie the school record for points in a postseason game, set against Oklahoma in a 2019 CFP semifinal at the Peach Bowl.

Emery ran 1 yard for a touchdown and Cain’s 9-yard run gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Daniels threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Taylor early in the second quarter to produce a 21-0 lead.

Cain ran 9 yards for a score and LSU made it five consecutive possessions that produced TDs when Nussmeier threw a 10-yard pass to Thomas for a 35-0 halftime lead.

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2021; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees stands on the sidelines before the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Buffalo Bills at the Caesars Superdome. Brees is b being honored at half-time of the game that he is also announcing for NBC. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Report: N.J. halts Citrus Bowl bets due to Purdue hiring Drew Brees

Gaming regulators in New Jersey have taken the Citrus Bowl off the board because Purdue hiring Drew Brees as an interim assistant coach caused a violation of the state’s regulations, ESPN reported Friday.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement announced that “an individual associated with the Purdue Football team” was in violation of its regulations. ESPN reported that individual was Brees, the former New Orleans Saints quarterback, who had a business relationship with sportsbook PointsBet.

Wagers placed by New Jersey bettors after Dec. 15 — the day Brees was named an interim assistant — must be voided, per the regulatory body’s ruling.

PointsBet announced on Dec. 22 that it was ending its “ambassador partnership agreement” with Brees after his decision to join the coaching staff at his alma mater.

The Citrus Bowl will see Purdue take on No. 17 LSU on Monday afternoon.

Brian Brohm is serving as the interim head coach for the Boilermakers on Monday after his brother, Jeff Brohm, left the post to take the same position at his alma mater, Louisville.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on the sidelines in the first quarter of the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Los Angeles Rams at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Drew Brees hired by Purdue as interim assistant coach

Former NFL and Purdue quarterback Drew Brees will serve as an interim assistant coach for his alma mater’s Citrus Bowl game against LSU.

Brees will aid the Boilermakers (8-5) in preparation for the Jan. 2 game and also participate in recruiting activities, per Purdue’s news release on Thursday.

“Purdue University is fortunate to have alumni who are impactful leaders in industries and careers across a wide spectrum, including professional football,” said Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski.

“For more than two decades, Drew Brees has shown the world what makes the Boilermakers special. He was an elite football player, but most of all, Drew is an extraordinary leader. Gaining his insights on the football field and in our coaching offices during this time of transition will be of great value to our student-athletes and staff.”

Purdue hired Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as its new head coach on Tuesday.

This is the first head coaching job for Walters, 36, who was named college football’s top assistant coach in 2022. He has been with the Illini for two seasons following a six-year tenure on the Missouri coaching staff, the last two as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator.

“I am extremely excited to work with our team over the next few weeks as we prepare for the Citrus Bowl,” Brees said in a statement. “I see it not only as an opportunity to coach and mentor this group of young men, but represent all the former Purdue players that care so much about our program.

“This is also preparation for the future of Purdue Football with new head coach Ryan Walters. I had a great conversation with Coach Walters last night, and love the energy, passion and detail he will bring to our program. The future is bright, and there is no better time to be a Boilermaker!”

Brees and Walters may have their work cut out for them. ESPN reported that Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell will announce Thursday that he is skipping the Citrus Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.

The 6-foot-3 senior completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 3,490 yards with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 games this season, leading the Boilermakers to the Big Ten West division title.

“When I first heard about Drew coming back to help coach our guys for the bowl game, I was hoping the rumors were true,” Walters said. “Our players have the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest leaders in football history, a valuable experience that they will never forget. Drew taking time out of his busy schedule to coach the bowl game is a perfect example of Purdue Football being one big family, and I cannot wait to see him on the sidelines in Orlando.”

Walters received a five-year contract and replaces Jeff Brohm, who left last week to become the head coach after six seasons and a 70-36 record in West Lafayette, Ind.

Brees, 43, retired following the 2020 season — his 20th in the NFL. He threw for 80,358 yards and 571 touchdowns — second only to Tom Brady in both categories — for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints. A 13-time Pro Bowl selection, he led the Saints to a win in Super Bowl XLIV.

Brees played quarterback at Purdue from 1997 to 2000, winning the Maxwell Award.

–Field Level Media

Purdue assistant coach Brian Brohm during practice, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021 at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.

Purdue Football Camp

Brian Brohm named Purdue interim coach after brother’s departure

Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski said Thursday that Brian Brohm will serve as the Boilermakers’ interim coach for the Citrus Bowl after his older brother, Jeff Brohm, left Purdue to accept the same position at Louisville.

Both Brohm brothers are Louisville natives and played quarterback for the Cardinals. Jeff Brohm spent a number of years on his alma mater’s coaching staff and earlier this week accepted the vacant head coaching position, after Scott Satterfield left to coach Cincinnati.

The elder Brohm previously turned down the job in 2019 when Louisville hired Satterfield.

Brian Brohm has been Purdue’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach since 2017, when he and his brother went to Purdue from Western Kentucky. Jeff Brohm was 30-10 in three seasons at Western Kentucky before going 36-34 in six years at Purdue.

Purdue (8-5) will face LSU (9-4) in the Citrus Bowl. Each program won its respective division in the Big Ten and SEC before losing in the conference title game.

–Field Level Media

Iowa defensive back Riley Moss (33) is acknowledged during a senior day ceremony before a NCAA Big Ten Conference football game against Illinois, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

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No. 15 Iowa, No. 22 Kentucky bring old-school styles to Citrus Bowl

In a sport that’s been taken over by spread offenses and flashy passing attacks, Saturday’s Citrus Bowl matchup between No. 15 Iowa and No. 22 Kentucky will serve as a reminder of days gone by.

The Hawkeyes (10-3) and Wildcats (9-3) are run-first teams that play strong defense and often make the magic happen when opponents make mistakes.

While strange things often happen in bowl games when teams haven’t played for weeks, logic dictates this is probably going to be a 17-14 or 20-17 kind of game.

Take, for instance, the comments of Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White about the Iowa offense.

“Something we don’t see very much is that two-back run game, the fact they play with a fullback,” he said.

“Some of our guys, especially younger guys that came out of high school and have only seen spread offenses, they don’t even know what a fullback is.

“So you’ve got to coach them up on that. So there’s a challenge in that aspect and it’s nice that we’ve had a couple of weeks to prepare.”

Iowa has exceeded most expectations this fall, aside from midseason losses to upset expert Purdue and Wisconsin. But the Hawkeyes rallied to win their last four games and reach the Big Ten Conference championship game, where they were hammered 42-3 by No. 2 Michigan.

Iowa hasn’t done it because of its offense. Aside from Tyler Goodson and his 1,151 rushing yards, there aren’t stars on that side of the ball. And Goodson is skipping the bowl game because he’s declared for next spring’s NFL Draft.

There’s also a question about who will start at quarterback. Spencer Petras has been hampered by a shoulder injury and ineffectiveness over the season’s second half, while backup Alex Padilla has completed just 45 of his 97 passes.

Veteran Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said that who gets the call might not be decided until later in the week.

“If it keeps our opponent on their toes a little bit, that’s OK,” he said.

Iowa’s identity is its defense. Even with the conference title game factored into the equation, the Hawkeyes allowed just 19.2 points per game.

Opponents have rushed for just 113.8 yards per game and the Hawkeyes have picked off 24 passes, with Riley Moss recording a pair of pick-sixes.

But they’ll face one of the most balanced offenses they’ve seen all season in the Wildcats. They averaged 206.1 yards per game on the ground and another 225 in the air. Will Levis threw for 2,593 yards with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, completing 66.5 percent of his passes.

Wan’Dale Robinson has been Levis’ favorite target, catching 94 passes for 1,164 yards and seven scores.

On the ground, Chris Rodriguez chewed up 1,272 yards and scored eight touchdowns for the first 1,000-yard season of his career. Kentucky’s third-down conversion percentage of 51.1 percent ranks fifth in FBS.

“Their offensive line reminds me of Michigan,” said Ferentz.

This will be the first time these programs have met.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Auburn Tigers running back Tank Bigsby (4) reacts after a long run agains the Texas A&M Aggies during the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Auburn RB Bigsby won’t play in Citrus Bowl

Standout Auburn running back Tank Bigsby won’t play Friday when the Tigers play No. 14 Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl, AL.com reported.

No reason was given for Bigsby’s absence.

Bigsby was named the Southeastern Conference’s co-freshman of the year and ran for 834 yards and five touchdowns this season. He also returned 13 kicks for 306 yards.

A four-star recruit, Bigsby was the fourth-ranked running back and No. 40 overall player in the nation in the Class of 2020, per the 247Sports composite.

There have been rumblings that Bigsby might leave Auburn in the wake of coach Gus Malzahn’s firing. Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Chad Morris said he wasn’t sure Bigsby would play in the game.

“Well, we are hoping. We’ll see on that,” Morris replied. “He has definitely had a great year, a phenomenal year. A young man that has an incredible future ahead of him. When you are able to get the ball in his hands, he makes a lot of things right when they aren’t right.”

Shaun Shivers and D.J. Williams are expected to be the primary running backs without Bigsby.

–Field Level Media